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Struck Out Looking by Jennifer Ross

Did you know that you can check real time scores for sporting events on the computer?  And that it even includes a “play by play” commentary?  I didn’t know it… until my husband came out to the computer one night to check the score of the Red Sox game (since it wasn’t being aired on television).  At his request, I relinquished my seat and sat next to him as he pointed and clicked his way to what he was looking for.

What popped up on the screen were the score and game statistics and cute little photographs of the man who was batting and the man who was pitching.  Between the two opponents was a little diagram of a baseball diamond with highlighted bases to show where batters who had made it to a base were standing… waiting to make it home.  And every 30 seconds the screen would update, giving live information on what was going on.  It was pretty amazing.

When the batter’s chance at bat was over, there would be a summary next to his name giving the final outcome.  And I saw several times the phrase struck out looking. 
I finally asked my husband what that meant and why they just didn’t say struck out?

Being the patient husband of a wife who likes and supports (but doesn’t necessarily understand) the world of sports, he turned to me, put his hands up as if he were holding a bat and peered across the room as if looking at the pitcher.  And then… he watched an imaginary ball fly right by him… without even attempting to hit it.  “Ahhhhh”, I laughed, “I get it!”

I learned two things that night: 1) I’m easily amused; and 2) What my next article had to be about.

I have no doubt that if the organized sporting events of today had existed among the Jewish people when Yeshua of Nazareth walked, He would have had a parable or two involving them.  He was a man in the flesh, after all.  But the only organized athletics of His day were unclean and pagan events such as naked Greek athletes worshipping Zeus in the Olympics; and Gladiators slaying each other to worship Caesar at the Roman Coliseum.

Since Yeshua came as a sign for and to the Jewish people, commanding THEM to spread the good news to the Gentiles so that all could be saved, using sports analogies wouldn’t have been very relevant to His mission.

But there is something about the idea of striking out looking….and what it illustrates… that I feel anyone today can relate to whether they have played baseball or not.

My husband explained to me that it wasn’t so much that the batter had two strikes, but how he reacted to a pitch after he had two strikes.  It’s basically a mind game between the pitcher and batter.  Both of them know what type of pitch worked to get the first two strikes, what is the next pitch going to be?

Here are a few of the reasons that a batter might strike out looking as opposed to striking out swinging:

  1. Simply put, the batter is afraid to look stupid, afraid to suffer the rebuke or ridicule of fans, teammates and Sports Analysts alike, by swinging at a “bad pitch”.
  2. The batter is out thought by the pitcher, meaning that the pitcher was better in his    execution of the pitch than the batter was in his expectation of it. A snapshot of this scenario in laymen’s terms could be that the batter was expecting the ball to come in ‘low and inside’ but the pitcher pitched it ‘high and away’… so the batter was caught off guard and unprepared.
  3. The batter’s mind is preoccupied with other things and not focused on the game.

Okay.  So where is G-d in all of this?

My deepest desire for all who claim to be a child of the God of Israel… is this:

Get your game on!

You don’t want the final commentary of your life here on earth to be STRUCK OUT LOOKING!

In my last article I mentioned the Sh’ma, from Deuteronomy 6.  Confirmed by Yeshua to be the greatest Commandment, the Sh’ma is recited in Jewish homes and synagogues throughout the world.  However, this commandment is not a single commandment, but a commandment with other statutes entwined.  Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, 12-13

Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One.  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  And these words which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart.  And you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall speak of them as you sit in your house, and as you walk in the way, and as you are lying down and as you are rising up. And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

You shall be on guard that you not forget the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. You shall fear the LORD your God and you shall serve Him and swear by His Name.

We are facing pitches all day long. From both the world AND from the Kingdom.  But we have the best batting coach in existence!  And if we love Him with all of our heart, soul and might…and follow His statutes regarding His Words…we can at least be ready for the pitch.

When it is a batter’s turn to come to the plate and face the pitcher, it is called his ‘at bat’.

If the following statement causes you discomfort…if it makes you fearful….if it angers your sensibilities…if it shakes the doctrines that you hold fast to…. you need to re-examine your at bat.

The Church did NOT replace Israel.

It overwhelms me that people who claim to follow Jesus can be so blind to this truth. If it’s not heartbreaking enough to see my Jewish brothers and sisters blinded to their purpose and the truth of their Redeemer, I am equally overcome with sadness at the thought of those Gentiles who will hear the words “I never knew you” because they allowed themselves to be deceived and stood against G-d in the last days.

Just because we think that we know Him, doesn’t mean that He knows us.

The story of Ruth in the Hebrew Scriptures should be the story for ALL Gentile Believers!  Instead of going back to her family in the land of Moab, she CHOSE to follow her Israeli mother-in-law back to the land of Judah…to Bethlehem.  Her words should be the mantra of every soul who calls themselves a ‘Christian’.

Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.  Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”

The Church decided that they would take the latter half of that commitment.  They’d take the God of Israel…just without the Israel part.  (Similar to the way the Romans adopted the Greek gods… but that makes sense since The Church was founded by Rome!)

The word translated as ‘church’ in English is the Greek word ecclesia. It means an assembly.  That is why the Hebrew book, Kohelet, is known as Ecclesiastes. Kohelet means ‘one who assembles’.  But when this word is used in the New Testament writings, who are assembling?  Ecclesia (according to Strong’s) comes from two words, the first, ek; meaning out offrom or away from and the second, kaleo; meaning to call.

We’ve seen the idea of calling out before, yes?  Vayikra, in Hebrew, meaning ‘and he called’?  Abraham…Moses…the Judges…the Prophets…King David…the Disciples… the Apostles… (just to name a few)… that were called out by G-d?  We know this pattern, right?

So it makes perfect sense that the true meaning of ‘church’ is an assembly of those who are called out away from the world to follow the righteous path.  Jew and Gentile, alike.

But then came the Council of Nicea in 325 CE (Common Era) and the birth of today’s church(es). That’s when the ‘heads of the church’ got together under Emperor Constantine and decided by vote what the doctrines of the church would be. The definition of ‘church’ changed from a spiritual state of existence…to an establishment.  It changed from G-d’s ‘ideal’ Israel…to something far from it!

What amazes me is that so many in the church today herald the council as a wonderful, unifying event!  I’m not here to debate the tragedy, but what is important to know is that at the Council of Nicea, G-d’s desire for an assembly of believers from all the nations was altered by man.  And as a result, the Hebrew rootsof faith in the God of Israel were erased and the people who clung to His way, Jew and Gentile alike, were detested, persecuted and killed.

Easter replaced Passover, Sunday replaced His appointed day of rest (among many other changes you will find if you do the research) and the speech was the same speech repeated throughout history….that the Jews were to be hated.

Where do we find the description of the righteous path that we are called away from the world to follow?  TORAH

And to whom was the Torah given?  ISRAEL

And to whom was the promise of a Redeemer given?  ISRAEL

And to what nation was this Promised Seed, Yeshua, born to?  ISRAEL

And through whom will the nations be blessed?  ISRAEL

And to what tree are Gentiles grafted into?  THE TREE OF ISRAEL

And when our Savior returns as King, where is His throne?  ISRAEL

And who is our King?  THE SON OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL

And what nation came forth in a day as prophesied in Isaiah 66?  ISRAEL!

Again, I plead, to Get Your Game On!

I’m not just pleading to you Gentiles who want to believe the lie that G-d is finished with Israel and the Jewish people.  I’m pleading to you Jews who are standing at the plate looking in earnest for a Messiah WHO HAS ALREADY COME! You may strike out looking literally!

You are being deceived by YOUR leaders just like the Gentiles!  You embrace Israel, but deny your Redeemer, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach!  And yet at every holiday, in songs that you sing, you are singing His Name!  The Name for Salvation, Yeshua!  Hanukkah is supposed to be festive and yet every year I will cry because you will sing the song Maoz Tsur and not even realize the fullness of it.

You go to the Rabbi’s for answers instead of to Torah and our Prophets!  You embrace the traditions, which are so wonderful and have kept the scattered Jewish people united throughout the centuries, yet you remain in darkness to the Truth and the Plan that these traditions are centered on.

Even some of the Sages, after calculating the numbers revealed in the Scriptures (Daniel, for example) that foretold the time of Messiah’s coming, realized that they had missed it!  Do the Rabbi’s teach you that?  Are they answering the question “what about the blood?”  Ha’Shem’s pattern of Salvation has ALWAYS been through willing sacrifice, blood and a Mediator.  That’s why we are instructed not to eat the blood, because life is in it!  And through the shed blood of Yeshua, we have everlasting life!

Yeshua was the willing sacrifice offered for G-d’s New Covenant prophesied in Isaiah 42.  It was HIS blood that was shed.  He is our Mediator, the prophet like Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy, who came to redeem us!  The sacrifice has been made.  We just have to follow in Father Abraham’s steps and BELIEVE!  Amen

The LORD declares through Isaiah (chapter 66) a disturbing picture:

He that kills an ox is as if he slew a man; 
he that sacrifice a lamb, as if he broke a dog’s neck;
he that offers a meal offering, as if he offered swine’s blood; 
he that makes a memorial offering of frankincense, as if he blessed an idol; 
they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations;
Even so I will choose their mocking, and will bring their fears upon them; 
because when I called, none did answer; 
when I spoke, they did not hear, 
but they did that which was evil in My eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.

This picture is not a condition of the heart, as some would argue.  This is a condition of choice.  This is a situation where man is choosing to worship G-d… but deciding to do it in a way that suits himself. Remember what happened to Aaron’s sons when they offered unauthorized fire to the LORD? (Lev.10)

This isn’t man delighting in abominations. This is man delighting in what The LORD sees as an abomination.

There is a way that seems right to a man; but the end of it is the ways of death. (Proverbs 14:12)

And to the church, don’t think that it is only empty sacrifices offered by the Jews that He rebukes.  Look at your own practices, your own man-made traditions and doctrines and holidays that make you feel good; that make you feel righteous.  He will rebuke this, as well.

There is an Eastern saying, “A wise man learns from his mistakes, a wiser man learns from others mistakes.” Throughout the Scriptures, G-d gives you your direction by using the way He deals with the Jewish people as the example.  Hence the term “chosen people”… and hence the joke around the table of long-suffering Jews, “why didn’t He choose someone else?”

When Yeshua explained to His disciples that He had to go into Jerusalem and suffer rebuke and attack and be put to death (Matthew 16:23), Peter’s response was “G-d be gracious to You, Lord; this shall never be to you!”

And how did Yeshua answer?  “Get behind me Satan!  You are an offense to Me, for you do not savor the things of G-d, but the things of men.”

At that moment, Peter, like we all have, succumbed to the deceptions of the enemy. We see what Peter said as an innocent and emotional statement.  Or maybe a bold statement at the horror and injustice of it all.  Or maybe he spoke simply out of ignorance.  But these aren’t necessarily bad things, right?  Innocence, emotion, hating injustice…these are good things, right?  And surely you can’t be faulted for ignorance, can you?  Well, as soon as you allow ignorance to speak, you can be.

If it contradicts or conflicts with HIM and His Plan and His Higher Truth…if it elevates US and our own reasoning (even if it lacks reason)… The LORD sees it as Evil.

This is where you may contend that G-d knows your heart, that He knows your intentions and that your intentions are well meaning.  You’re right.  He does know your heart.  He knows that your heart is being willfully disobedient and that your head is trying to cover for you.  In the Hebrew culture, the culture of the Scriptures, however, the heart is seen as the seat of emotion AND knowledge. So this line of thought won’t work.

Emotion and intellect co-exist together, not separately, as we try to make them today.  The whole new age of psychology tells you to keep your emotions in check by subduing them with your intellect.  No!  That’s just a free ticket to rationalize!  Your knowledge and your emotion should never contradict one another.  They should be unified.

That is why your “yes” should be “yes” and your “no” be “no”.  If you are walking in the character of Messiah, you have already sworn by His Father’s name and committed yourself to His Father’s ways.  And you certainly should never find yourself saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.” Because everything you say, you should mean.  If you don’t mean it, you shouldn’t say it!  (Of course you might end up apologizing for what you did mean if it hurts someone’s feelings, but that’s another story)  This is why our tongues can be such a dangerous tool of the enemy.

How many of us speak for Satan as we rationalize our own ways of worship? How many of us choose doctrines that contradict the Scriptures, even if it’s out of ignorance?  How many of us, like it is told in 2 Peter, don’t have a true understanding of what the Scriptures say and so we pervert them into what we WANT them to say?  Easier, isn’t it?  It’s easier to bend them to our will than to study and pray and fast for understanding….

But Peter certainly grew as the New Testament Scriptures unfold.  He caught on to the Truth and became a symbol of what the ‘church’ should be.  He writes in his second letter 3:16-17-

…Concerning these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the unlearned and unsettled pervert, as also they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.  Then beloved, you knowing beforehand, watch lest being led away by the error of lawlessness you fall from your own steadfastness.

If Peter is going to give me a warning of ‘destruction’….and an instruction to ‘watch’ … and informs me of an apparent ‘error’ in regards to not following the law…I’m going to take heed.  Yeshua didn’t say, “Go… and keep on sinning because I’ll forgive you.”  He said, “Go and sin no more.”  And again, what is sin…how do we recognize what sin is?  How do we know WHAT to repent of so that we can be washed clean in His atoning blood?

His Word and His Way are written in Torah…and as Yeshua said, “Not one jot or tittle shall pass away from the Torah until all is fulfilled”.  Matthew 5: 18

And in case you haven’t noticed, all has not been fulfilled…. yet.  We still have a ways to go.

But the ‘church’ is waking up… after a long, long sleep…
And the Jews are waking up… after a long, long sleep…
The assembly is coming together slowly….
Can you sense it?  Can you see it?  Can you hear it?
Where do you stand?  Who do you stand with?  
Who are your people?  Who is your God?  

“The Lord is not slow as to the promise…but is long suffering toward us, not having purposed any of us to perish, but all of us to come to repentance.” 2 Pet 3:9

It’s the bottom of the ninth with a runner on third, score is tied and the count is 3 balls, 2 strikes…..

The King is looking for loyal subjects.  He is looking for those who will not be fearful of rebuke or ridicule from the world…for those who will not be out thought by the enemy and his deceivers….and for those whose mind is focused on the righteous path.

The pitcher’s winding up…

Read Torah and the Scriptures.

The pitch looks good….

Pray for wisdom and understanding.

Hey batter, batter, batter…

Humble yourself.

SWING!

He’s coming back.  Don’t strike out looking.

In baseball terms… it’s just embarrassing.  In the terms of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our Creator and LORD, our Redeemer and King…the God who planted the Tree of Israel…it’s the difference between blessings or curses….life or death….

And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and sinner appear?  So indeed the ones suffering according to God’s will, as to a faithful Creator, let them commit their souls to the right course of action. 

1 Peter 4:18,19

Author: Jennifer Ross

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